We were back in our home town of St Andrews just a few weeks ago for The Gin Fayre: Christmas Special and we thought we'd give our new resident bloggers, Mike and Steph, the opportunity to get involved and try out a Gin Fayre for the very first time! So, they jumped on the train from Edinburgh for a GINdulgent day out by the sea... Here's what they thought!
Steph: We recently attended The Gin Fayre: Christmas Special in St Andrews and had such a great time testing out the gins and meeting the geniuses behind each bottle. This guide is for anyone who is planning on attending any future Gin Fayre and wants to know what to expect...
1. Be open minded
Sometimes the description in the programme or the description of the gin makes you think “hmm I don't think I'll like that gin”. We recommend you stay open minded, try a gin: after all, what's the worst that could happen? Generally, we are not whisky drinkers, but actually loved the smell and taste of Firkin Gin which is whisky based - so much so we bought a bottle! Some of the gins that were there at the event we had tried before and thought we didn't like but actually on second taste we loved! It just goes to show that it’s always worth another go!
2. Ask Questions
Don’t be scared or shy! The stall holders at the gin fayre were the nicest people. They are not just there to sell you a bottle of gin, they are there to provide you with an experience. Remember these guys know the gin inside out, ask them about recommended serves, the distilling process, the story behind the company. That’s why they are there, they also won’t be offended if you don’t like their gin. We met some really interesting people and learnt so much more about gin in general.
3. Take Note
On that note of speaking to people, be sure to either take photos of garnishes or serves. Or even better take notes either in the programme or on your phone. Sober you will thank you later, when you try and construct that perfect serve. You’ll be trying to remember whether it was orange or grapefruit that went with this gin and the name of that gin you thought your friend would really like.
4. What’s the Story?
Gins all have a story. They were made for a reason. Some of them perhaps started off as a get rich quick scheme, others were made to fill a gap in the market, others have love stories behind them. I love learning about why gins were made and where the inspiration came from. For example, a new gin we tried was Granite North which took 80 tests to get right and has really fresh grapefruit flavour, it’s a great gin to have straight.
5. Head to the bar
Has anyone ever said it was a bad idea to head to the bar? Yes, the samples are good but sometimes it's better to get a full G and T (other mixers are available) to really appreciate the drink. It’s also really hard to add the right amount of tonic to the wee sample cups without drowning it and then ending up just drinking a whole lotta tonic. If anything you can pick up some good cocktail tips and ideas!
6. Find out where it’s stocked
Although you can always buy a bottle or two on the day but sometimes it's not practical and so you think you’ll come back to it. Some gins aren't available in every shop like Harris Gin, who limit it’s stockists to make it more exclusive. Ask where you can get it if you want to buy it later. Although if you are stuck, you can buy a lot of the gins in The Gin Fayre shop!
7. Attend a master class
We attended the Minus 33 master class. It was a great way to find out the history of the gin by the creator himself and the story of his many experiments distilling in the lab and surveying to find out what people liked about gins, leading, eventually, to create the final product. Understanding what’s in the gin helps you know how best to drink it!
8. Don't pre-drink
Sadly we learnt this the hard way last time. We went for a cheeky G&T before an event once. There is a lot of gin on offer: if you drink too much of it you forget and it doesn't end well. So take it easy!
The food was amazing from County Hog Roasts. We tried the Hog Roast with Haggis roll. It's good to snack throughout for a good gin break, especially when it’s so tasty! Also on offer at the St Andrews Fayre was a whole selection of Gin based foods including Gin Loaf, Fudge and Cake. Just in case you hadn’t had enough gin!
10. Take your time!
Finally, this is the most important one. It's not a rush: take your time, sit down, catch up, take stock of your faves. Otherwise, you'll forget flavours and they’ll all be forgotten in a haze. The atmosphere is buzzing at the Gin Fayre and it’s a perfect place to people watch!
So, there it is. That's our top tips for how to successfully navigate a Gin Fayre, the main message is get a group of friends together, even the ones who say they don’t like gin (they are just drinking it wrong), go along and have FUN!